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Human Trafficking Victimizes Immigrants

President Obama in September 2012 issued executive orders that strengthen efforts to curb human trafficking among government contractors, part of a White House initiative to raise awareness about the global problem of modern slavery which affects immigrants around the world.

The president announced the changes at the Clinton Global Initiative and called it an “outrage” that there are believed to be 20 million global victims of human trafficking.

“It is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in a civilized world,” he said.

Under the new rules, federal contractors and subcontractors for large overseas contracts must take steps to ensure human trafficking does not occur in their labor chains. The Obama administration also promised to provide more training on human trafficking to federal prosecutors, law enforcement authorities and immigration judges and officials.

In 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano launched the Blue Campaign, an initiative to coordinate government efforts against human trafficking. The DHS has hotlines for agencies and individuals to report suspected cases.

Victims can get help at through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (888-373-7888) which offers assistance in 170 languages.

Most Americans are unaware of the scope of the problem and the toll it takes on immigrant victims worldwide:
  • According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, it is a $32 billion industry worldwide.


  • Up to 2 million people are trafficked worldwide every year, and of those, 15,000 to 18,000 are in the United States.
  • Eight in 10 human trafficking cases are linked to the sex industry; the others involve trafficked laborers.
  • In 2012, U.S. investigators worked on 2,515 human trafficking cases.
  • 83% of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases in the United States in 2010 were U.S. citizens. However, 67% of the labor trafficking victims were illegal immigrants; 28% were legal immigrants.
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s Hotline gets 1,000 calls a month reporting suspected cases.
  • In recent years, the volumes of calls have more than doubled, from 5,700 calls in 2008 to about 12,000 in 2011.
  • Twenty-seven states have their own human trafficking laws and have increased enforcement of them.

President Obama said improving rehabilitation programs for victims is essential and he cited Humanity United and Johns Hopkins University’s Protection Project for their leadership in the field.

Founded in 2005 with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., Humanity United works with individuals, organizations and governments around the world to promote human rights.

Protection Project is a human rights institute based at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. It was founded in 1994 to raise human rights awareness and stop abuses. The Project compiles some of the most detailed and accurate reports available on global trafficking.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plays an active role in combating human trafficking and provides these indicators to guide people who may suspect it:
  • Does the possible victim possess identification and travel documents? If not, who has them?
  • Did the possible victim travel to a destination country for a specific purpose and is he or she engaged in a different job than expected?
  • Is the victim forced to perform sexual acts as part of employment?
  • Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex?
  • Does the possible victim owe money to an employer?
  • Did the employer instruct the victim on what to say to law enforcement or immigration officials?
  • Can the possible victim freely leave employment or the situation?
  • Are there guards at work or video cameras used to monitor and prevent escapes?
  • Does the possible victim have freedom of movement?
  • Can they contact family and friends? Can they socialize or attend religious service?

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